Thoughts From a Forgotten Demographic: Conservative Christians Who Didn’t Vote for Trump

I am troubled by the precipitous decline in civility amongst people in the United States who hold opposing views. This topic has been on my mind for some time. While I don’t often write about politics, I’ve stated before my thoughts on how to address this decline. This article is just my way of sharing my observations.

Before I get too far, I’ll point out that I didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary. They were both firmly untenable candidates to me, for different reasons. I voted for a third party candidate, not that it matters.

During the 2016 campaign

As I stated in the title, I am in fact a conservative Christian who did not vote for Trump. I found his antics, character, lack of statesmanship and decorum, and lack of any apparent interest in improving those shortcomings to be such an affront to my sensibilities that I was horrified at his candidacy. I was far from alone in that sentiment.

I saw many friends and acquaintances of similar beliefs share their sentiments early and often: he is unqualified and so painfully unpresidential. The fact that he was even running felt like a bad dream from which I couldn’t awaken.  Friends frequently shared articles and opinions with the same concerns.

I recall wondering to myself, “What is happening? Trump has supporters – but WHO ARE THEY?? Who are these people that attend his rallies? Do such people even exist, or is this some elaborate media prank?”

It began to dawn on me what was happening. Trump figured out how to market himself to the disenfranchised; those who were angry about what was happening in this country, but felt powerless to do anything about it. People who had seen the distant breaking wave of political correctness gather momentum over the last few decades, to the point in recent years where it had picked up enough height and velocity to turn into a terrifying tsunami, destroying (or wanting to destroy) everything in its path that offered dissent.

Others who boarded the Trump train were small business owners who were looking for tax and regulation relief, with a Commander-in-Chief who could empathize with them, as a businessman himself.

While I sympathized with those viewpoints, they weren’t enough for me to overlook his shortcomings as a candidate, which is why I didn’t vote for him, nor did many people I know.

Since the election

With the election two years behind us, the bitterness and adversarial spirit that plagued this land during the campaign season only seems to grow worse, not better. As one who admittedly spends too much time on Twitter, reading the viewpoints from people all over the political and moral spectrum, I’ve noticed something troubling to me.

The substantial base of Christians who identified more with #NeverTrump seem to be a political afterthought as if we never existed. More specifically, the progressives/leftists became transfixed on citing how the majority of “evangelicals” voted for Trump.

As an aside, I put “evangelicals” in quotes because it is unclear to me their definition of the term. For that matter, I wonder how clear that term is overall based on polling data. Does anyone who watches Fox News and goes to church once in a while get defined as an “evangelical”? But that is a separate discussion.

Leftists pound the drums of this trend so relentlessly that any voice of dissent feels as though it gets lost in the noise. They use that as their rallying cry that “evangelicals” have lost all moral credibility in voting for Trump. I take every opportunity I get to remind someone of that mindset that nearly 30% of evangelicals do not fall into that camp. They don’t seem to care, because that position doesn’t fit their narrative. It is much easier to push the stereotype that all Christians are Trump supporters than to take time to engage the nuances in people’s views. There is only so much shouting into the wind one can do before a sore throat to no effect becomes too discouraging.

A vicious cycle

It is not lost on me how the cycle of incivility has played out. Conservatives and working class folks, tired of being bullied into silence over the years by an ever more demanding and forceful progressive presence in society, had gotten to their wit’s end. They were disgusted by outrageous demands and infringements on religious liberty by a zealously leftward sprinting government under the Obama administration.

Along comes Trump; a crass loudmouth that knew exactly what to say and how to win over this crowd. It was so startling that many found it refreshing. Not knowing how to respond, just knowing that the bland, mostly spineless leadership of the GOP offered no hope in its current state, they embraced Trump – a hero that could represent them in Washington. That is my assessment of the otherwise astonishing fanbase he gathered.

The left, incensed that such a scandalous character had taken office, who was not afraid to viciously attack his enemies in tweets and verbally, ratcheted up their hate for everything Trump stands for, including all those who are loyal to him or approve of anything he does.

Incidents of sheer intolerance for dissent are on the rise. Public figures are being chased out of restaurants, homes are being threatened by mobs, even children of such folks have been targeted for the audacity of having parents who push back on a leftist agenda.

It seems the left even growls with disapproval at folks who won’t share their hate, want to remain neutral, or hold the traditional position of respecting the office of the President regardless of political agreement (see: Tiger Woods incident from August 2018). That appears to be a thing of the past in today’s political climate.

I see how the tone and rhetoric that Trump brings to the fight only serves to add fuel to the fire. But I also can’t help but observe that the left’s reaction tactics; openly calling for incivility, disruption and violence towards dissenters, ironically drives more people to support Trump who would not have otherwise.

Tactics mentioned above are so distasteful to the moderate, reasonable person, that even if they are somewhere in the middle ideologically, they may be inclined to ally with the other side, even if uncomfortably so.

It seems that neither side is backing down. Both seem prepared to fight until the finish, cranking up the heat with no end in sight.

A call to civility

There are a lot of things I miss about the way things used to be. High among them is the opportunity to have a conversation about politics that doesn’t end in a shouting match or dissolve into unsubstantiated name-calling. I remember a time when it was more widely normal and safe to talk about dissenting ideas and policies without fear of being unfairly labeled various unflattering titles.

How refreshing it would be if national discourse were more about discussing and weighing ideas than pointing fingers, more about trying to get along than trying to vilify other viewpoints.

In closing, I’ll suggest a few things that would help for both sides of the political spectrum. As we discuss politics, let us:

  • Know the true definition of words we are using to describe others. E.g., calling someone a “racist” is a pretty serious charge. It has lost some weight because it gets thrown around so much.
  • Be prepared to back up arguments with examples. This is an area in which I could certainly improve. Just calling someone, or a whole class of people, a name without citing specifically why you think they deserve that name has no validity as an argument.
  • Respect all other humans as having equal value as yourself.
  • Respect the right of others to hold different viewpoints.
  • Realize that we are never going to be entirely unified, but that we can still respect one another.
  • Remember that our political system was set up to win battles civilly, at the polls.

This post covers a lot of ground concerning things that have been on my mind for the last few years. I embrace the sentiments behind the bullet points above and welcome respectful conversation with others who hold different views. As always, thank you for reading!

 

 

 

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About Summer Sorensen

My aim: to live out Jesus' greatest commands (Matthew 22:36-40) & have the most fun while doing it.
This entry was posted in Opinion, Political Musings and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Thoughts From a Forgotten Demographic: Conservative Christians Who Didn’t Vote for Trump

  1. Emma Bee says:

    you’re speaking my language… thank you x

  2. apriljahns says:

    Summer,
    I appreciate what you wrote about Christianity and politics particularly as it relates to Trump. I have been waiting for a time when I could devote some time and thought to a response without having to feel guilty for not studying.
    I’m going to do a line item response in italics, so I don’t forget anything.
    During the 2016 campaign
    As I stated in the title, I am in fact a conservative Christian who did not vote for Trump. I found his antics, character, lack of statesmanship and decorum, and lack of any apparent interest in improving those shortcomings to be such an affront to my sensibilities that I was horrified at his candidacy. I was far from alone in that sentiment.
    I saw many friends and acquaintances of similar beliefs share their sentiments early and often: he is unqualified and so painfully unpresidential. The fact that he was even running felt like a bad dream from which I couldn’t awaken. Friends frequently shared articles and opinions with the same concerns.
    I recall wondering to myself, “What is happening? Trump has supporters – but WHO ARE THEY?? Who are these people that attend his rallies? Do such people even exist, or is this some elaborate media prank?”
    It began to dawn on me what was happening. Trump figured out how to market himself to the disenfranchised; those who were angry about what was happening in this country, but felt powerless to do anything about it. People who had seen the distant breaking wave of political correctness gather momentum over the last few decades, to the point in recent years where it had picked up enough height and velocity to turn into a terrifying tsunami, destroying (or wanting to destroy) everything in its path that offered dissent.
    Regarding political correctness. I remember the early 90’s when everyone was up in arms over political correctness. I was too. As I got older and veered left I saw a different perspective.
    From where I am on the left I see a group of people who are open and welcome just about everyone. I can hear the argument that they don’t accept everyone, just those who think the same. Let me tell you why I don’t think that is true. The left accepts just about everyone except those they view as hateful or exclusionary.
    I have liberal friends who are Christians who think homosexuality is wrong *but* they don’t treat them differently. They will hire them, be friends with them and go to their weddings. They don’t endorse policies that infringe on their gay friends’ rights. They have no tolerance for that.
    When people on the left see a group of people who profess to be Christians who give huge tax cuts to the super wealthy while trying to strip protections or safety nets for the poor they get upset.
    When they see people who follow a God who said to treat the alien in the land with dignity and to give them shelter who are actively trying to block people fleeing from violence, poverty and famine they get really upset when they pick and choose which edicts to follow.
    Back to the political correctness. It wasn’t unreasonable for people to want offensive language from being removed from our lexicon. “That’s so gay” – clearly not a good thing and if you are gay you are already on the outs with society. “____ like a girl”, “retarded” (as someone who has a special needs child – nothing anyone on the outside would see as “special needs” they just pass judgment on my parenting and assume I’m a libtard mom raising a snowflake). Libtard – really, people?
    Its not about political correctness to want a work environment to be free from sexual impropriety. I don’t want to be called sweetheart at work. I don’t want my boss staring down my shirt. Would a man want to be called sweet cheeks at work or have their clothes be uncomfortable because it is the most flattering and considered work appropriate?
    Others who boarded the Trump train were small business owners who were looking for tax and regulation relief, with a Commander-in-Chief who could empathize with them, as a businessman himself.
    While I sympathized with those viewpoints, they weren’t enough for me to overlook his shortcomings as a candidate, which is why I didn’t vote for him, nor did many people I know.
    Since the election
    With the election two years behind us, the bitterness and adversarial spirit that plagued this land during the campaign season only seems to grow worse, not better. As one who admittedly spends too much time on Twitter, reading the viewpoints from people all over the political and moral spectrum, I’ve noticed something troubling to me.
    I think it has only grown worse because we are bombarded daily with new lies, new assaults to our senses as Americans (muslim ban (but not from Saudia Arabia, the country that produced the Twin Tower bombers because the president has a financial relationship with them). Overlooking the Saudi sanctioned murder of a journalist because of our financial ties. Trying to reclassify toxic waste to make disposal cheaper (and very dangerous), Trump allowing more asbestos to be used, auctioning off public land….
    The substantial base of Christians who identified more with #NeverTrump seem to be a political afterthought as if we never existed. More specifically, the progressives/leftists became transfixed on citing how the majority of “evangelicals” voted for Trump.
    As an aside, I put “evangelicals” in quotes because it is unclear to me their definition of the term. For that matter, I wonder how clear that term is overall based on polling data. Does anyone who watches Fox News and goes to church once in a while get defined as an “evangelical”? But that is a separate discussion.
    Who is an evangelical Christian? Who makes that definition? I don’t know who makes that definition but having gone to a church for 15 years that was full of – not my term but one many people will understand – SJW (Social Justice Warriors). I think the church I grew up in could be considered evangelical. Evangelical church – it felt like the only questions that were allowed were ones that clarified scripture. Anything that questioned authority or questioned the goodness of God were almost an affront. The only thing one should question is one’s own lack of faith that is causing doubt. If one doubts, then one is wrong. Even though they said “we don’t have a spirit of fear,” fear was a driving force in the church. If you were sick it was because *you* did something, *you* doubted. Illness, financial hardships were the fruit of your (lack of) belief, faithfulness, etc. Everything mainstream was suspicious. Science, education, the government. They were mistrustful. Mainstream was all about dismantling the church.
    The church that I went to for 15 years is as far from evangelical as one can get. Questions were embraced. Doubt was listened to. Fear was never a part of the equation. If you got sick, you got sick because we are humans living in a flawed world. If you didn’t like something and spoke up – that’s fine. You are entitled to have your own opinion. The leadership is fallible and is also held accountable by a larger church body. In the evangelical church there wasn’t a larger church body to keep leadership accountable because they said church committees are where the church comes to die. Disagree over the new carpet color and the church splits. Sure, there are probably some really lame instances where petty differences allowed a rift in the church but I would rather be in a church where that can happen than in a church where the leadership can rule uncontested and twist scripture however they see appropriate. Who is to question their calling?
    The differences in the people who go to the first church versus the second church are enormous. The first tend to listen to authority and fall in line. The second will listen to authority and question it if it doesn’t make sense.
    Leftists pound the drums of this trend so relentlessly that any voice of dissent feels as though it gets lost in the noise. They use that as their rallying cry that “evangelicals” have lost all moral credibility in voting for Trump. I take every opportunity I get to remind someone of that mindset that nearly 30% of evangelicals do not fall into that camp. They don’t seem to care, because that position doesn’t fit their narrative. It is much easier to push the stereotype that all Christians are Trump supporters than to take time to engage the nuances in people’s views. There is only so much shouting into the wind one can do before a sore throat to no effect becomes too discouraging.
    Nearly 30% of evangelicals didn’t vote for him means a little over 70% did vote for him. That is a large, large number.
    A vicious cycle
    It is not lost on me how the cycle of incivility has played out. Conservatives and working class folks, tired of being bullied into silence over the years by an ever more demanding and forceful progressive presence in society, had gotten to their wit’s end. They were disgusted by outrageous demands and infringements on religious liberty by a zealously leftward sprinting government under the Obama administration.
    What were the “outrageous demands and infringements”? I can’t speak to that without specific examples.
    Along comes Trump; a crass loudmouth that knew exactly what to say and how to win over this crowd. It was so startling that many found it refreshing. Not knowing how to respond, just knowing that the bland, mostly spineless leadership of the GOP offered no hope in its current state, they embraced Trump – a hero that could represent them in Washington. That is my assessment of the otherwise astonishing fanbase he gathered.
    The left, incensed that such a scandalous character had taken office, who was not afraid to viciously attack his enemies in tweets and verbally, ratcheted up their hate for everything Trump stands for, including all those who are loyal to him or approve of anything he does.
    The left was incensed for many reasons but I think the biggest insult was that he lost the popular vote and we were immediately told to just get with the program. We supported Obama, now its your turn to support Trump. As family was telling me to get behind the democratically elected president I distinctly remembered one brother telling me Obama was probably the anti-Christ. My sister in law calling him Obummer every time his name came up and my other brother talking about how he was really a Kenyan Muslim hell bent on destroying America. They don’t remember any of that. They don’t remember Mitch McConnel saying it was his pleasure to do everything he could to thwart Obama to keep him to one term. They don’t remember saying they wouldn’t let Obama nominate a supreme court justice because it was an election year and being indignant when democrats tried to use that same reasoning when Kavanaugh was nominated during an election year.
    Incidents of sheer intolerance for dissent are on the rise. Public figures are being chased out of restaurants, homes are being threatened by mobs, even children of such folks have been targeted for the audacity of having parents who push back on a leftist agenda.
    Children should be off limits. I’m not a fan of surrounding politicians at dinner and chanting at them until they leave but I’m also not a fan of putting children in cages. If push came to shove I would shame someone who put policies into place to separate parents from children as a deterrent (or any other reason for that matter).
    It seems the left even growls with disapproval at folks who won’t share their hate, want to remain neutral, or hold the traditional position of respecting the office of the President regardless of political agreement (see: Tiger Woods incident from August 2018). That appears to be a thing of the past in today’s political climate.
    When people see evil and say nothing it is akin to supporting it. I know conservatives get really upset when we compare pre-WWII Germany to our country today but it can’t be ignored that there has been a large uptick in blatant racism and attacks that are racially motivated. When the president said there are “fine people on both sides” of the Unite the Right rally there is no excuse to not stand up and say he was wrong. There is nothing fine about white supremacy.
    I know many, many democrats who used to be republicans. As the republicans become more fringe it pushes moderates further left – it’s almost instinctual. You see the scale tipping right so you go left to try and balance the scale. The people in the middle are torn and are forced to choose which extreme better represents their values.
    I see how the tone and rhetoric that Trump brings to the fight only serves to add fuel to the fire. But I also can’t help but observe that the left’s reaction tactics; openly calling for incivility, disruption and violence towards dissenters, ironically drives more people to support Trump who would not have otherwise.
    I don’t see the left (there may be individuals) calling for violence. I know Trump said the left called for violence but he has said a lot of things that are not true. I have a friend who was at a work conference shortly after the inauguration. There also happened to be a protest of some sort at the same time, near the same event. She saw on a conservative news program the busses that her company chartered for their tech convention being labeled as paid for by the left to bus in protestors. She, who had remained quiet politically, was dumbfounded. She was shouting from the rooftops that those buses were transporting employees to a convention but it didn’t matter. The story of the paid protestors was already the truth to Trump supporters and to say otherwise was “fake” news.
    Tactics mentioned above are so distasteful to the moderate, reasonable person, that even if they are somewhere in the middle ideologically, they may be inclined to ally with the other side, even if uncomfortably so.
    It seems that neither side is backing down. Both seem prepared to fight until the finish, cranking up the heat with no end in sight.
    A call to civility
    There are a lot of things I miss about the way things used to be. High among them is the opportunity to have a conversation about politics that doesn’t end in a shouting match or dissolve into unsubstantiated name-calling. I remember a time when it was more widely normal and safe to talk about dissenting ideas and policies without fear of being unfairly labeled various unflattering titles.
    How refreshing it would be if national discourse were more about discussing and weighing ideas than pointing fingers, more about trying to get along than trying to vilify other viewpoints.
    In closing, I’ll suggest a few things that would help for both sides of the political spectrum. As we discuss politics, let us:
     Know the true definition of words we are using to describe others. E.g., calling someone a “racist” is a pretty serious charge. It has lost some weight because it gets thrown around so much.

    I agree that we paint with a broad brush with the word “racist” but it would be nice for the right to acknowledge systemic racism and unconscious bias. When a white person says, I didn’t get any special help it can be true that there wasn’t one thing that was done differently for them but it can also be true that a black person has a history of being enslaved and has really only been free for a very short period of time relative the history of our country. While white people had centuries to build wealth and to accumulate knowledge in a safe environment that was geared for the white man, black people started from scratch a little over a hundred years ago and not fully until the 1960s.

     Be prepared to back up arguments with examples. This is an area in which I could certainly improve. Just calling someone, or a whole class of people, a name without citing specifically why you think they deserve that name has no validity as an argument.
     Respect all other humans as having equal value as yourself.
    I would ask the right to also value gay, immigrants (even illegal ones), atheists, etc.
     Respect the right of others to hold different viewpoints.
     Realize that we are never going to be entirely unified, but that we can still respect one another.
     Remember that our political system was set up to win battles civilly, at the polls.
    That could be debated. Some argue that our system was set up to keep power with the powerful via the electoral college. Add to that gerrymandering and you can see how the majority of the people can have their voices quashed.
    This post covers a lot of ground concerning things that have been on my mind for the last few years. I embrace the sentiments behind the bullet points above and welcome respectful conversation with others who hold different views. As always, thank you for reading!
    I hope I was clear in my response, Summer. I appreciate the civility with which you broached this sensitive subject.

    • Summer Sorensen says:

      I appreciate your civility as well! So glad you weighed in. It is always good to get an alternative POV.

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